All posts by Cindy Constable

From Hire to Retire: Infusing Corporate Culture Through The Process

The corporate culture of your company should be taken into consideration in all stages of your relationship with your employees as it sets the foundation for the values, beliefs, and decisions your business will stand by.  

From the hiring process to company celebrations, to administering raises and promotions, infusing the corporate culture throughout the process helps to maintain consistencies and develop a solid belief system.

Hiring a Cultural Fit

Cultural fit is a term used frequently in the employee hiring process.  It is discussed when considering whether a potential employee would fit into the corporate culture of the company.

The official definition of cultural fit according to JobTestPrep.com is  “when a company evaluates how a potential employee may express the characteristics, language, and values that exist within the current organizational culture.”  

When a candidate’s values, beliefs, outlook, and behavior are compatible with those existing within the company, he or she is likely to be a good fit.

It’s important to have guidelines when looking for a cultural fit without creating a culture where you only hire clones of fellow employees.

If you focus too much on an employee being the perfect cultural fit, it is possible for the company to becomes homogeneous in views and ideas.  

That can create an environment that limits business growth as differing beliefs, ideas, and viewpoints, often spark conversations that lead to ideas that can change the trajectory of a business.

Incorporate Corporate Culture in the Hiring Process

When you consider the corporate culture of your company and seek a candidate who is a cultural fit, it’s best practice to advise them that it will be considered in the hiring process.

Having an open dialogue about this component of the hiring process allows the candidate to understand that they will not be judged based solely on their work experience, education, and employer recommendations.  

Incorporating corporate culture can be done through an interview, assessment, or personality test.

Examples of questions you can ask are

  • Do you prefer working alone or as part of the team?
  • What is your leadership style?
  • How would your co-workers describe your work style?
  • What do you think about regular employee gatherings?

Be sure to ask questions that speak directly to the values that are important to your company.

Cultural Fit Onboarding

When you’re onboarding a new employee into the company, having further conversations regarding the corporate culture helps to build cultural competency from day one.

You can do this by offering a company values training that occurs in person or via pre-recorded video. Cultural information should also be included in the employee handbook, though that alone is generally not enough training for a new employee.

When discussing values, be sure to offer real examples of how they can be showcased correctly and incorrectly within the company.

Offer an opportunity to have a conversation after the training has taken place to ensure all messages have been delivered clearly and to clarify any potential questions that might remain.

Continued Cultural Conversations

Beyond the hiring and onboarding processes, maintaining a positive corporate culture is vital to the success of a company.

Team Building

Planning team building activities can build a culture of connectedness amongst employees and showcase the importance placed on that component of the corporate culture.

Here are a few simple examples of team building activities, but there are hundreds if not thousands of options available.

  • Put employees in small groups and give each group tape, marshmallows, and spaghetti noodles. The team with the highest structure wins.
  • Put employees in small groups.  Participants begin at a starting line and run to a swivel chair.  They sit down in the chair and spin around 5 times then run back to the starting line to tag in their team member.  The team that finishes first wins.
  • Put employees in small groups. Set up trash cans 5, 10, and 15 feet from the starting line.  Each “basket” has a point value associated with it. Each participant will get 5 pieces of balled up paper and will earn points for their team based on the number of shots that land in the basket.

Continued Education

Continued education regarding the culture of the company is also an essential piece of the puzzle. Just discussing it during the hiring process is not enough.  Once your employee is in the trenches and facing various situations, those cultural trainings that occurred months years ago are no longer front of mind.

There are many ways to incorporate continuing education into the organization, here are a few tips to consider.

  • Make training mandatory for all of those involved in the organization. If it’s not required, many employees may not attend or might question its actual importance.
  • Ask for feedback from employees regarding the cultural training. If it doesn’t connect with them, it is a waste of time.
  • Use current employees to provide training when possible.  This helps to promote the skillsets of current employees.

Offer Rewards

You can also reward those who demonstrate company values consistently.

This can be done by using values as a part of the criteria when awarding raises and promotions.

You can nominate employees each month for demonstrating the core values of the company. You can present them with a certificate, or highlight their work in the company newsletter or staff meeting.

Making this information public helps to reiterate the importance of corporate culture and values in the company.

You can also acknowledge employees in simple ways by sending an email to an employee who demonstrated good values or leaving a sticky note on their desk expressing your appreciation.

One vital component of continuing cultural conversations is to discuss behaviors that are incorrect. When you see an employee demonstrating culturally inappropriate behavior, it’s essential to have a respectful, open, and honest discussion about why their behavior is inappropriate and what a better choice would be,

Fostering Engagement

Infusing corporate culture throughout your organization is vital to the corporate culture process.  Ensuring your employees are engaged in the corporate culture is a requirement if the process is going to have maximum effect. If you’re looking to improve your employee engagement, make sure you download a copy of my free book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement. It features actionable steps you can take to ensure your employees are fully engaged in all processes including the corporate culture.

Defining a Winning Corporate Culture

What is Corporate Culture

According to Investopedia.com, the corporate culture definition is  “beliefs and behaviors that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions.”

The corporate culture of a business is reflected in many ways including how it structures

  • Goals
  • Strategies
  • Customer interactions
  • Investor relationships
  • Community
  • Dress code
  • Business hours
  • Office setup
  • Employee benefits
  • Hiring decisions
  • And more

A company’s corporate culture is generally implied and develops organically over time based on the traits of its’ employees.

Since corporate culture makes up much of an organization’s viewpoint, developing a defined optimal culture can be crucial for long-term success and scalability.

Corporate Culture Examples

All businesses have a corporate culture, whether it has been identified or not. Some companies stand out as having a positive, supportive, and inspiring culture that makes it an exceptional workplace.  

Here are 3 well-known companies, that have developed a well respected and positive corporate culture according to Entrepreneur.com.

Zappos

Zappos is an online shoe store that emphasizes building a strong positive culture.  Half of the weight of the hiring process is based on the results of a cultural fit interview. It is given to determine whether a new employee would fit in with the current company culture.

They go a step further by offering any employee $2,000 if they choose to quit within the first week if they determine the job is not a good fit.

Instead of promotions and raises going to those in the top social circle, they are awarded to employees who pass skills tests and showcase improved job skills.

The corporate culture of Zappos demonstrates that maintaining a positive and fair work environment is a necessity.

Twitter

Twitter, one of the top social media platforms, has defined its corporate culture as one that is team oriented and laid back.

By offering rooftop meetings, free employee meals at the headquarters, and even yoga classes, Twitter wants to ensure their employees are happy because satisfied employees are willing to go above and beyond while on the job.

Squarespace

Squarespace has risen in popularity as one of the best website creation platforms and is regularly voted as a top workplace in New York City.

With 100% health insurance premium coverage, flexible vacation offerings, catered meals, a fully stocked kitchen, monthly celebrations, and even a relaxation space in the office, there is no wonder professionals love working at Squarespace.

The Importance of Corporate Culture

As the previous examples demonstrate, the corporate culture of a business can shape how it operates.

With Twitter’s laid-back team-oriented environment, discussing necessary changes and new initiatives is likely more comfortable to do.  

Along the same lines, interdepartmental collaboration is probably a painless process.

If the culture was one of no teamwork and being afraid to communicate, crucial conversations wouldn’t take place or would be met with so much static they would lose value.

Developing a corporate culture has three main benefits.

Define Identity

Defining the corporate culture helps a business to identify its values and identity.  Without an idea of the culture, it’s difficult to develop a set of consistent values.

Increase Retention

A company with a strong culture attracts better employees, and once hired those employees stay longer.

This leads to a reduced turnover rate, fewer new hires, and improved chemistry amongst employees because their team remains consistent.

High turnover rates are a clear sign of an issue within a business’ corporate culture.

Define Image

The corporate culture defines the image of a company. Depending on the type of business, customers and clients can see how employees are treated which can boost sales and customer loyalty.

Social media platforms showcasing parts of the company culture can bring potential customers or clients to the business because they are attracted to the culture they see.

The image is also a part of attracting high-quality employees.

Defining Corporate Culture

The concept of defining corporate culture is a very personal one.  

Not just to the management team or the CEO, but to the entire business as a whole.

No one can define your culture for you.

It should be developed after receiving input from every member of the organization from the custodial staff to the President.

Here are 15 questions you can ask to start defining the corporate culture of your company.

  • How is feedback managed?
  • Who gets promoted?
  • What behaviors are rewarded?
  • What five words describe the company?
  • How does the management team support and motivate employees?
  • Who fits in and who doesn’t?
  • What causes conflict and how is it resolved?
  • Is risk-taking encouraged?
  • What’s one thing you would change about the company if you could?
  • What makes you proud to work for this company?
  • How would you describe the organizational politics at the company?
  • Who in the organization has the power to get things done?
  • What kind of flexible work arrangements are available
  • How does the organization support your professional development and career growth?
  • What role do company values play in hiring and performance reviews?

Just as a reminder, these questions should not only be asked to the upper management team.  Allow all employees to provide input. The more information that’s collected, the better understanding you will have of the current corporate culture, potential areas of growth, and areas that are thriving.  

A critical component of corporate culture is high employee engagement. If your employees are asking, what is company culture, it’s important to get them engaged in the process.  If increasing employee commitment is a part of the corporate culture that you need to improve, click here to download a free copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement. When you develop a positive corporate culture with fair practices and policies that engage your employees, your business has a higher chance of success over time.

Why Your Business Should Be Strategic Planning

All businesses are unique, but one thing many successful business owners have in common is the practice of strategic planning.  This plan is used to ensure they have an understanding of their vision, their goals, and the steps needed to make these ideas a reality.

A strategic plan is “a systematic process of envisioning a desired future and translating this vision into broadly defined goals or objectives and a sequence of steps to achieve them” according to BusinessDictionary.com.

All business owners should develop and frequently revisit their strategic plan.  The definition includes the reasons why it’s vital to business success, but I will break them down further below.

You Envision Your Desired Future

Have you ever gotten in a car destined to have the best vacation ever without your GPS turned on or a destination in mind?  I doubt it. Moreover, if you did, it’s unlikely that your trip was successful.

Whenever you take action, you have an idea of what you want your result to be.

When you get a haircut, you envision a specific style.

When you paint your bedroom, you know the emotion you want the color to evoke.

When you get married, you envision living happily ever after with your spouse.

Strategic planning allows you to do the same thing.

Envisioning a future for your business takes you out of the present and catapults you into the future, so your actions are working towards reaching your target.

You Develop Broadly Defined Goals or Objectives

Having a vision for your future allows you to set goals or objectives that will enable you to work towards that vision.

Setting proper goals is crucial for any business because it takes your vision and makes it more concrete.  

Real Life Example

Your long-range travel goal is to visit every continent by your 60th birthday.

How will you turn that dream into a reality?  It starts by setting broad goals. You don’t need to define every detail from the beginning, just developing a general understanding is a great start.

For example

  • I will visit Europe by 35 years old.
  • I will visit Africa by 40 years old.
  • I will visit South America by 45 years old.
  • I will visit Australia by 50 years old.
  • I will visit Asia by 55 years old.
  • I will visit Antarctica by 60 years old.

These broad goals alone will not turn your overarching vision into a reality, however, identifying them start to make your concept more concrete.

You Develop a Sequence of Steps to Achieve Your Goals

Now that you have an overall vision along with broadly defined goals or objectives, strategic planning calls for you to break down each goal into actionable steps that make it achievable.

Having a vision is excellent and setting goals is even better, but without the actionable steps that follow, your goal will likely never be achieved.  The steps turn it into a plan which is what every business owner needs.

Your vision, goals, and plan are the trifecta that make up strategic planning.

Real Life Example

To continue with the example that was provided in the previous section, let’s take the first goal and break it down into actionable steps.

I will travel to Europe by my 35th birthday.

What steps will make that possible?

  1. Decide on a location
  2. Decide on a date
  3. Decide who will accompany you
  4. Book your hotel
  5. Book your flight
  6. Plan your itinerary
  7. Pack your bags
  8. Set a timer the night before the trip to arrive at the airport on time

Now you have a plan that will help you reach your goal!

If you find yourself still asking, “What is Strategic Planning” or want a more in-depth explanation of what a strategic business plan is and the benefits of strategic planning you can read another blog post I wrote on this topic entitled The 5 Benefits of Strategic Planning For Your Business.

Why You Need Strategic Planning

I included a strategic planning example related to travel because we can all relate to the concept. As simplistic as it seems, that’s ultimately how simple your business strategic plan can be.  

Just remove the travel elements and replace the vision, goals, and plan you have for your business.

If you think you can travel to every continent before you’re 60 years old without goals or a plan, then by all means, maybe you don’t need to implement strategic planning in your business.

However, if you’re like the rest of the world and realize that goals and a plan help you to reach your vision faster, it’s time to implement one now.  

If you already have a strategic plan that sits in a folder on your laptop that you never refer to, it’s time to pull it up.  

A strategic plan is a living document, as your business grows and changes so should your vision, your goals, and your plan.

Develop your strategic plan, regularly revisit it and update it. That’s the key to successful strategic planning.

If your company has employees, full time or part time, it’s essential that they be up to date on your strategic plan and follow it with fidelity. Gaining employee buy-in and engagement is crucial to business success.

If you’re looking for a tool to help you improve your employee engagement, you need to download a free copy of my book, “5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement.”  You can download your copy here.  Its features best practices for getting your employees engaged in your company’s success. Strategic planning is most beneficial when everyone is on board and committed.

Cash Flow: The Life Line Keeping Your Business Afloat

When operating a business, the amount of money you make and spend, or cash flow is one of the major indicators of its ability to thrive or likelihood to struggle. This comes as no surprise.  We’ve all heard the saying that cash is king. That is especially true when running a company. Phillip Campbell, CPA, the former chief financial officer for multiple successful companies and a respected author was quoted as saying “Despite the fact that cash is the lifeblood of a business — the fuel that keeps the engine running — most business owners don’t truly have a handle on their cash flow.”  

If you’re a business owner, and you’re not aware of the amount of cash flowing in and out of your business on a regular basis, you’re setting yourself up for failure.  Below you will find vital cash flow related definitions, the benefits of knowing your cash flow, and 5 questions you can answer to ensure you know your business cash flow.

Cash Flow Related Vocabulary Defined

Profit

According to Investopedia.com, “Profit is a financial benefit that is realized when the amount of revenue gained from a business activity exceeds the expenses, costs and taxes needed to sustain the activity…”

Simply put, profit is the amount of money you make in your business minus the expenses.  It is how much money that remains once all of your bills are paid.

Your goal is to have a hefty profit, that’s the only way you make money.  Too often business owners confuse profit with our next term, cash flow.

Cash Flow

Also according to Investopedia.com, “Cash flow is the net amount of cash and cash-equivalents being transferred into and out of a business…”

Therefore, cash flow is not one number, it speaks to the overall flow of money in your business which paints a broader picture of your financial status.

A company can have a positive cash flow with no profit depending on the source of their funds.

For example, if a business takes out a business loan and sees an increase in cash flow that month, their actual profit might be zero because of their need to take out a loan.

A business can also be profitable and have no cash flow.

For example, if you contract with companies who delay their payment, you could have a cash flow of $40,000 with $10,000 that still hasn’t hit your bank account.  If your monthly expenses are $45,000, that means you are profitable, but your cash flow is not positive.

Revenue

According to BusinessDictionary.com, revenue is “the income generated from the sale of goods or services, or any other use of capital or assets, associated with the main operations of an organization before any costs or expenses are deducted.”  

Revenue is also known as sales.

Why Knowing Your Cash Flow is Important

Knowing the monthly cash flow of your business is vital for many reasons.  Here are 5 significant reasons why you should make knowing your cash flow a priority.

It Indicates Financial Health

Knowing your cash flow indicates the overall financial health of your business. It showcases your company’s ability to pay its bills and handle other financial responsibilities consistently.

Being unable to take care of your financial responsibilities, or having a lot of your revenue tied up in debt indicates that your financial health is failing.

It Indicates Your Ability to Generate Cash

Knowing how much money comes into your business every month and how much you have left at the end of the money after paying all expenses helps you to understand your ability to generate cash.

Keeping track of this consistently provides you with an overall cash flow projection which you can use to indicate your ability to cover expenses in the future.

It Highlights Your Debt

Because cash flow indicates where your money is going each month, the payments you make to your creditors are highlighted.  By bringing constant attention to these debts which are taking hold of your incoming cash flow, you can focus on paying them off.

It Gives You Flexibility

When your business has a positive monthly cash flow, it gives you flexibility.  

You can use your positive cash flow to invest more in your business and make choices that will lead to increased revenue.

When faced with a dilemma, you have the opportunity to make choices that will best fit your business because you have the cash available.

Questions to Answer About Your Cash Flow

When you’re working on improving the health of your business and thus your cash flow, you must know what to look for in the process.  As you review your cash flow, here are a few questions you should be able to answer.

  • What’s the difference between profit and cash flow?
  • Where does my cash go?
  • Do I have hidden cash flow (ex. debt)
  • How much cash does my business have?
  • How much cash does my business need to operate?
  • Where does my business get and spend cash?
  • How do my income and expected income affect the amount of cash I need to expand my business?

Cash is king in business and knowing your cash flow will help monitor your financial health to keep your business afloat.  When you’re running a business, you get busy, but reminding yourself of why knowing your cash flow numbers is important can help you keep it at the top of your priority list.  

As you work towards becoming a cash flow king (or queen), remember you should always be able to answer the cash flow related questions listed above.   If you have the cash to keep your business afloat, you are more likely to stay in business as long as you keep the cash flowing. Keeping track of your cash flow is key to knowing your financial health and in indicating your future ability to remain in business.

Cash flow is just a part of running a successful business.  Ensuring all of your employees are engaged in the practices of your company is a necessary skill as well.  When you’re ready to make sure your employees are involved as you expand and grow, download my free book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement. Click here to get your copy today. C

Improve Communication Skills and Increase Sales in 6 Steps

Business isn’t all about the numbers, metrics, and analytical data.

The communication skills you have when interacting with your clients or potential clients can have a significant impact on your annual revenue goals.  When your objective is to increase business sales, it’s vital that you consider how effective your communication skills are.

The definition of communication according to the BusinessDictionary.com is a “two-way process of reaching mutual understanding, in which participants not only exchange information…but also create and share meaning.  In general, communication is a means of connecting people or places.”

In sales, your communication skills are what move your clients from no to maybe to yes.  They are what clear their confusion. They are what helps them bypass internal objections.  They are what helps them decide to pay the invoice and sign the contract.

Improving your communication skills takes practice, but the more you do it, the more natural you become.  Read on to find 6 steps you can take to improve your communication skills and increase your business sales.

Be an Active Listener

Listening is a challenging practice for many because we often don’t listen to understand; instead, we prepare our response.  Being an active listener encourages you to focus on what your potential client is saying. It gives them the sense that you’re interested in the conversation and boosts rapport.

These 3 steps can help you be a better listener and improve communication skills.

Pay Attention:

Give your client your undivided attention.  Don’t get distracted by your thoughts. Don’t allow your environment to cause interference.  Don’t prepare your response while listening. Instead, acknowledge what is being said and make your potential client feel like they have your full attention because they should.

Show You’re Listening:

Your body language indicates to your client how much you’re listening.  Show you’re paying attention to what’s being said by using both verbal and nonverbal cues.  Non-verbal gestures include nodding your head and smiling. Verbal cues include saying “uh huh” and “okay.”  When giving verbal cues, be sure not to interrupt your client. At this stage in the conversation, your goal is only to make your client feel heard.

Reiterate or Gain Clarification

When communicating, it is okay to reiterate what was said or ask for clarification when you’re at the appropriate phase in your conversation.  This might include you saying things such as

“What I hear you saying is…”

“Do you mean…when you say…”

“What it sounds like you’re saying is…”

Pay Attention

Paying attention is a component of being an active listener; however, it’s worth mentioning again. As stated previously, it’s important to be physically and mentally available during your conversation.  This includes ignoring all internal and external distractions.

When you are not paying attention, it’s off-putting to your potential client.  It demonstrates that you’re not serious about your conversation. You also appear unprofessional and as if you’re only interested in how the partnership will benefit you.  When you’re trying to make a sale, you never want a potential client to have those thoughts about you.

Pay Attention to Body Language and Tone

Professor Albert Mehrabian, current UCLA professor, came to the now famous conclusion that communication is 7% verbal, 55% body language, and 38% voice tone.  When you’re engaged in a conversation, pay close attention to the body language of the person you’re speaking with. Body language is displayed in a variety of ways including

Facial expressions

Body movements

Posture

Eye contact

Spatial distance

Touch

In some instances, it’s best to improve your communication skills by mirroring the body language and tone of whom you’re speaking to.  If their tone is formal, make sure yours is as well. If they smile, you smile also. This strategy should be done naturally so as not appear to be a mime.  When you mimic their body language correctly, it often makes them feel more comfortable with you and like your conversation is going well.

Be Honest

Honesty is a sales technique that doesn’t often come to mind. Just because you’re in the position to sell something, it doesn’t mean you have to reduce your moral capacity to that of a sleazy used car salesman.  Be upfront about what you know and don’t know. Be honest about what your product or service can provide. Be forthcoming with the results of your product or service. If you come across as dishonest, it will significantly decrease the likelihood that a sale will transpire from the conversation, and your potential client will be unlikely to speak highly of you or your firm to others.

Be Knowledgeable

When you’re trying to get a potential client to purchase your product or service, you are charged with being the expert about that product or service.  You should know the ins and outs of what you’re selling. Be aware of the benefits and what type of client it best suits. Know the typical objections people have to the purchase of the product or service and have a rebuttal ready for any doubts.  Also, know what people love about what you’re selling. Having this knowledge will help you have a conversation beyond mere facts and figures. Being knowledgeable builds the know, like, and trust factor you have with your potential client.

Focus on Solutions

When involved in a sales call or meeting, your goal is to listen actively to your potential client and showcase how your product or service can be a solution to their problem.  Always discover what their problem is and take the role of a problem solver. In business, people generally make purchases to serve as solutions. If you can adequately communicate how what you’re selling solves their problem, you’ve won half the battle.

When you’re working to make a sale remember that you’re speaking to a human being, not a business.  It’s acceptable to behave in a personable manner. It’s okay to have a goal based conversation without it feeling sleazy and sales-y.  People buy from those whom they know, like, and trust. Help your potential clients know you, like you and trust you, so they feel comfortable signing the contract and paying the invoice.  

Developing excellent communication skills shouldn’t just be geared toward one person in your business.  This concept should be shared amongst everyone from the top down. Increasing employee engagement so they are actively committed to improving communication skills is the way to go.  Whether you have a team of 5 or 50, you can download a free copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement here.  You will find tons of actionable strategies you can implement to ensure your entire team is engaged and ready to improve communication skills.

The 5 Benefits of Strategic Planning For Your Business

 

The term strategic planning is frequently used in business, but you might find yourself asking, “what is strategic planning?”

Implementing strategic planning sets a business up for success.  If you analyze the name, strategic planning is simple. It’s a process of planning the actions you take in your business strategically instead of making decisions on a whim or duplicating the efforts of other successful companies.  However, there’s a bit more to strategic planning than meets the eye.

The 3 Steps of Strategic Planning

According to BusinessDictionary.com, strategic planning is “a systematic process of envisioning a desired future, and translating this vision into broadly defined goals or objectives and a sequence of steps to achieve them.”

To develop a full understanding of what the strategic planning process is, let us discuss the three steps further.

Step 1: Envision Your Future

As a business, you must have an idea of how your business will look in the future.  How will your business operate six months, one year, or five years down the road? What will your business structure be?  How many employees will you have? What will your profit be each year? Without the ability to conceptualize a future for your business creating a strategic plan is unattainable.

Step 2: Set Goals

Once you have a vision for the future, it’s time to make specific goals to help that vision come to fruition.  The best way to set goals is to make sure they’re SMART. SMART stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.

An example of a SMART goal is, I will increase my consulting clients by 25% within the next 12 months.

It is specific and measurable because I can determine if my clients increased by 25% within 12 months by analyzing my metrics.

It is attainable because I set a reasonable goal.  

It is relevant because the goal relates to my business.

It is timely because a realistic time frame is included.  

Step 3: Develop a Sequence of Steps to Achieve Your Goal

Once you have your vision and your SMART goal, it’s time to develop a strategy to reach your objective. This is done by creating a step by step action plan.

Using the SMART goal I developed in step 2, if my goal is to increase the number of consulting clients I sign by 25% within 12 months I must

  • Determine how many clients I need
  • Hire a social media manager
  • Attend two in-person networking events per month
  • Speak to my current clients about referring others to my practice
  • Update my lead magnet, so those visiting my website are added to my email list

Creating specific action steps takes your vision from an idea to a goal to reality.

5 Benefits of Strategic Planning

Completing the three-step process of strategic planning leads to numerous advantages in your business.  Below you will find five significant benefits of implementing strategic planning.

1. Increases Longevity

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Business Employment Dynamics, 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, 50% fail by their fifth year, and only 30% of companies make it to their 10th anniversary.

Having a strategic planning process in place increases the likelihood that you are making decisions that will lead to the long-term success of your business.  Your vision, goals, and plan of action are all surrounding the ultimate goal of your company advancing, therefore increasing longevity.

2. Provides a Sense of Direction

When you have a specific vision with SMART goals and an outlined plan, there should never be a question of where your business is heading.  Having a sense of direction will guide all of the decisions you make in your business. You will be able to effectively steer yourself and your employees as you make day to day decisions, increase efficiency and proactively work towards your goal.  

3. Makes You Unique

Many businesses are suffering from copycat syndrome.  They see other seemingly successful companies and copy their techniques without determining whether they best suit their business model. This leads to look alike companies being created.  

However, when you develop a strategic plan for your business that’s unique to your vision and your goals, you are free to develop specific steps that work for you and you alone.  You are free to show your marketing genius and creative ideas to reach your optimal level of success. Straying from the pact will set you apart from your competitors and provide you with a unique selling proposition.

4. Evaluates Progress

In developing your strategic plan, you are developing measurable SMART goals.  Because the goal is measurable, you can track your progress quickly and determine whether you are moving toward that ultimate vision.  Evaluating progress helps you to identify strengths and weaknesses in your business, strategy, and employees. Recognizing your strengths and weaknesses helps you to make decisions regarding additional supports you might need to bring on board or strengths you should utilize more as you work to reach your goal.

5. Sets Priorities

As a business owner, you are frequently inundated with tasks.  The goal is to focus on the most critical tasks first. Having a strategic plan will help you to identify the tasks that are most important and likely to move you toward your ultimate vision.  Those priorities are where the majority of your time, energy, and effort should be spent. When you lack priorities and view everything on your to-do list with the same urgency, you are failing to optimize your time effectively.

Strategic planning is more than just creating a plan for your business. It can be the difference between reaching your 10th anniversary, or not making it past year 5.  With a world full of competition in every arena, it’s important to set your business apart and prepare your business for success. Implementing strategic planning helps you to reach your goals the SMART way.

When developing your strategic plan, employee engagement and support is a non-negotiable. If you’re searching for a roadmap to increase employee engagement, download a free copy of my book, 5 Tips to Improve Employee Engagement here.  It’s packed with strategies you can implement to ensure you and your employees are on the same path to business success.

As the Economy Heats Up, the Fed Continues on Its Path of Raising Rates

On Wednesday the Federal Reserve lifted its benchmark rate by a quarter of a percentage point. For those not paying attention to monetary policy, this is the second hike this year.

As a small business owner or even a solopreneur paying attention to what the Fed does with rates is important to your bottom line. The state of the economy as well as interest rates can have a direct effect on your expenses, the pool of potential employees, employee retention, and a host of other things in your business.

As the economy has continually improved Fed officials have been split about whether to raise rates three times or four times this year. The consensus seems to be coalescing around the likelihood of four rate hikes in 2018.

The premise behind the rate hikes is an attempt by the Fed to keep the economy from overheating.

With unemployment at 3.8%, the lowest since 2000, and predictions of a drop to 3.6% going forward, rising inflation is a real risk.

“The main takeaway is that the economy is doing very well,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said at a news conference. “Most people who want to find jobs are finding them, and unemployment and inflation are low.”

Let’s look at some of the ways this rate hike can impact you directly.

Higher borrowing costs

The Fed lifted the federal funds rate, which helps determine rates for mortgages, credit cards and other borrowing, to a range of 1.75% to 2%.

A higher rate makes it more expensive for banks to borrow money, which can translate into higher borrowing rates for consumers. The cost of higher rates for consumers can translate into less disposable income. It also means increased costs for your lines of credit, credit cards, and any variable rate debt you may have. Paying higher interest rates cuts right to the bottom line.

The Fed’s decision Wednesday was driven by “indications that inflation is right around the corner,” said Jason Reed, an economist and finance professor at the University of Notre Dame’s business school.

The long economic recovery has seen mysteriously low levels of inflation. But it has finally passed 2%, the level the Fed considers healthy.

It’s important to note that the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, which strips out food and energy prices, climbed to 2.2% in May. This was the biggest registered annual jump in six years.

An ever-improving economy

The Feds recently offered an improved forecast for unemployment this year, lowering their forecast to 3.6%. They forecast an even lower unemployment rate of 3.5% for 2019 and 2020.

For seven and a half years, employers have added jobs every month, a record. And for the first time in at least 20 years, there are more job openings in the United States than there are people looking for work. The biggest puzzle in all this is the continued stagnation of wages.

Low unemployment seems like a good thing at first glance. But as small business owners this can hamper recruitment efforts. In order to attract quality candidates you may have to offer higher wages. The other risk is a complete lack of qualified candidates all together. Lack of qualified candidates can lessen your ability to grow and/or service your existing customer base.

Don’t get me wrong; the sky isn’t falling in on us. A strong economy is generally good news for all of us. As small business owners, we just need to be aware of the risks and fluctuations in the economy so we can manage our ship accordingly.

I encourage you to tune into what’s going on and adjust your financial forecasts accordingly. Fed Chair Powell announced that he plans to hold press conferences eight times a year, up from the current four.

Ensure that you are investing in your employee engagement efforts, building strong leaders, effective communicators, and redo your SWOT analysis to adjust for any potential threats to your industry based on rising interest rates and a tight labor force. If your strategic plans are more than a year old, it’s time to dust it off and examine your action plans.

 

Say It Out Loud

“Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will” – Suzy Kassem

A couple of days ago I wrote about living a life of fear disguised as practicality. I realized that I had been allowing fear to keep me from doing what I really wanted to do in life.

There is a school of thought that says to keep your dreams/plans to yourself and just let you results speak for themselves. This theory lends itself to the fact that the “dream stealers” will try and talk you out of what you want or that the naysayers will disparage you to the point of giving up all together. I have allowed this theory to keep me stuck. I kept my goals to myself out of fear. It also allowed me to “save face” if I didn’t achieve them.

I now prefer to subscribe to the theory that sharing my goals by stating them out loud allows those who support me to come flooding into my life. Proclaiming that which I desire brings it into my reality. I believe that words have power. I also believe that what you speak about you become. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have fear or doubt from time to time. To the contrary, I believe that pushing past the fear is critical to achieving my stated goals. I have talked myself out of doing what I want more times than I care to admit. I’ve learned that the achievement of the goal isn’t the only prize. The bigger prize is who I become along the way.

I want to return to this girl. This was me 5 years ago, focused on my health and wellness. Missing a workout was out of the question. I have allowed myself to slip into a thick soup of excuses anchored in fear. It’s time to cast off the chains that bind and claim my victory.

I will be in the best shape of my life for my 46th birthday on July 30, 2018.

What has fear been keeping you from achieving?

There Is No Right Or Wrong

We all approach things from our own unique point of view. We each have our own perspective based on the experiences we bring with us to a given situation. There is no time of year when this is more evident that during election season. Two people can view the same image; hear the same speech, read the same information yet come away with 2 totally different perspectives. We have preconceived notions about what something represents. Within that context, we formulate an opinion. Where things get sticky is that we attempt to push that opinion as fact.

How much times have you wasted trying to prove someone else wrong? Trying to convince someone that your perspective is the only way. Attempting to convince them that you are right and they are wrong is a complete wasted effort.

“A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still” – Benjamin Franklin 

What is even sadder to me is that we attack others for maintaining a different opinion. We expend copious amounts of energy trying to prove them wrong. In those futile attempts, we throw reason out the window. We will quote any source, regardless of how unreliable, as “evidence” to support our opinion. I’ve witnessed the vilest comments. I’ve seen friendships ended and relationships ruined all in an attempt to be RIGHT. I ask you this: Was it worth it? Did you really “win” by denigrating your friend? You obviously couldn’t convince them of your rightness or their wrongness. To what end is all of this angst?

What I appreciate about living in this country is our right to have a difference of opinion and to do so publicly without recourse. Well, without recourse from the government anyway.

When you look at the wolf and the bird picture: What do you see? I see focus, determination, grit, perseverance, tunnel vision, risk taking, risk avoidance, nature, and calm.

What would your ideal day look like?

I’ve often been guilty of doing what “I have to do” versus what I want to do. When this question was posed to me of “what would your ideal day look like”, frankly I was stumped. It had been so long since I took the time to think about what an ideal day would look like. I had to ask myself, what does that even really mean? What is “ideal” anyway? I had to sit with this for a couple of days and really take an inventory of my current day-to-day activities.

Recently, there was a video on Facebook showing a lady walking in the airport on one of those people movers. Thing is, she was walking the wrong way on the mover. So, she was walking but not getting anywhere, she just kept walking without even realizing her situation. This is a great depiction of how I felt when the question of an ideal day was posed to me. I’ve been doing what I do for so long on autopilot that I hadn’t realized I wasn’t really getting anywhere. It was like my life was on wash, rinse, and repeat. That horrified me for a moment. My personality does lend itself to security in the known. I do like a routine, predictability, and comfort. However, I had become so comfortable that I was just basically living the same day over and over and calling it a life. I’m not saying my life is bad in any way, just overly predictable. Which, if I am being honest, is not how I want it to be.

My ideal day would include:

  • Waking up naturally and getting my workout in first thing
  • Taking my daughter to school and picking her up
  • Writing, speaking, and consulting with and for my clients
  • Enjoying family time in the evening
  • Traveling at will

What would yours look like? Have you thought about it? Share with us in the comments below.